An exceptional exhibit showcased Sam Shaw’s legendary photographs
Sam Shaw is the one whom we all remember for having immortalised the iconic image of Marilyn Monroe with her skirt blowing over the subway gate in front of the former Trans Lux Theatre on Lexington Avenue in New York. They were filming The Seven Year Itch (1955), at the beginning of Marilyn’s career. Over the next few days, the photograph was splashed across the front page of magazines and newspapers in New York, Berlin, London, Paris, Rome, and Tokyo. Shaw met and began working with Marilyn early in her career and continued to shoot her through her professional life, when she would glorify Black, Starr & Frost jewellery, along with Tiffany, and Cartier in the song Diamond’s Are A Girl’s Best Friend; and Chanel N°5 as the only thing she would wear when going to sleep.
Sam Shaw portrayed almost every major Hollywood star, artist, and intellectual of his day. He consistently captured the moment in his quest for truthfulness, with enthusiasm and from a new perspective, just as if he were selecting the camera angle for a film sequence. He was a lifelong New Yorker who demonstrated his artistic talents from an early age. After sharing a studio with the artist Romare Bearden, he eventually turned to photography. Shaw began his photographic career shooting for Collier’s magazine in the forties, and his series How America Lives captured real people and their lives. He gravitated towards photojournalism, and by the fifties and sixties Shaw’s works became synonymous with the covers of Life and Look – the two best and most important magazines that time.
Mr. Shaw’s name is very well connected to the film industry, since he was also the creator of the image of Marlon Brando’s ripped-shirt for the film A Streetcar Named Desire (1951). During the sixties, Sam Shaw had evolved into a feature-film producer, starting with the Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier film Paris Blues (1961). Even as a producer, his first love and his preferred medium was always photography. He worked alongside John Cassavetes, producing and collaborating on a series of critically acclaimed and award-winning films. Shaw’s legacy continues to live through the Shaw Family Archives, thanks to his grand-daughter, Melissa Stevens, who directs and manages the collection with Mr. Shaw’s daughters, Meta Shaw and Edith Shaw (her mother and aunt). The exhibition, ‘Sam Shaw: 60 Years of Photography’, was unique this year because for the first time Shaw’s less known photojournalism and street photography was displayed alongside some of his most famous portraits of celebrities and films.
Article by Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi